Superguide: Lenovo ThinkPad USB 3.0 Dock, to affordably add 2 external monitors to Windows/Mac/Linux

Posted by Paul Braren on May 2 2013 in
  • Productivity
  • Reviews
  • Superguides
  • The Lenovo ThinkPad USB 3.0 Docking Station (0A33970) is available from Amazon here.

    If you want to learn more about the possibility of getting more monitors hooked up to your USB 3.0 equipped system, you've come to the right place. Should work with nearly any brand of recent vintage laptop or desktop that's equipped with USB 3.0. Works with Windows 7 and Windows 8. Works with Mac OS X, and even Linux.*

    In summary, this device usually just works. No lag, no blur, no tearing. Smooth  scrolling through complex documents, and no issue with Full HD (1080p) playback/Adobe Flash. Extra monitors can even work over USB 2.0 in a pinch, like when my USB 3.0 ports were in need of repair, without any noticeable lag for day-to-day business apps.

    I've been using the dock connected to USB 3.0 for about 8 months now, mostly with Windows 8, but also tested on several Windows 7 systems too, seen in my video here. It only uses about 6 watts, putting out far less heat than the external GPU upgrade options that gamers would be more likely gravitate to.

    Drawbacks? The focus here is on efficiency and productivity. Lenovo makes no claims that this is intended to be suitable for gaming, . There are some Windows limitations/dependencies that you'll see folks talking about in the DisplayLink Forum and Knowledgebase, hinting that you'll do better with newer systems built since 2010, with mature USB 3.0 chipsets and drivers. It's also best to stick with the Lenovo driver for the dock itself, which may flash the device's firmware. See also the Lenovo instruction manual here, support here, and phone support here. Use the DisplayLink generic Windows Driver Download only if you have an issue with the Lenovo driver, such as suddenly finding Metro apps running slowly, explained here and here. There's admittedly no Windows RT support, but it'll work great with the Microsoft Surface Pro, explained at SurfaceGeeks here. There's no HDMI port, but you can buy an DVI-D to HDMI cable. Finally, when waking up my Windows 8 triple monitor configuration from suspend mode, I do find apps and the Modern Start Screen don't always "remember" which monitor they're supposed to be running on. But that's mostly just nitpicking.

    Note the stated 2048x1152 resolution maximum documented by DisplayLink here, since this particular dock has DVI-D outputs only, no DisplayPort. So for those increasingly common 27" 2560x1440 monitors, like my Nixeus NX-VUE27, I just use my beefy ThinkPad W520 laptop that's 2560x1440 capable over its DisplayPort output from the dock, and DVD-D cabling for my flanking 1920x1080 22" monitors, see also graphics and pictures below for more details.

    For a deeper-dive, see also the series of related articles below, listed in chronological order. As always, your comments and feedback is greatly appreciated!


    For a deeper-dive, here's a chronological list of related articles:

    Is a Lenovo 0A33970 USB 3.0 "dock" the best way to add a third monitor to a workstation-class laptop, like the ThinkPad W520? published May 15th 2012

    Lenovo ThinkPad USB 3.0 Dock 0A33970: one USB 3.0 cable from your laptop gives you 5 USB 3.0, 1 Gigabit, and 2 DVI outputs (with videos) published on Jun 3rd, 2012

    How to enjoy Windows 8 on your Lenovo ThinkPad W520 laptop, with 3 external monitors, and an external keyboard and mouse published Dec 9th, 2012


    You'll see things worked out well with 2 Lenovo Yoga 13 touchscreen ultrabooks joining the extended family. One is connected full-time to a Lenovo ThinkPad USB 3.0 Dock, not just for an external monitor, but as a way to allow WOL for me to wake the Yoga remotely.

    Fun with Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 published on Dec 23, 2012

    Finally, the unboxing:

    Dec 01 2013 Update

    If the high resolution is all you're after, then perhaps something like this newer product is a better choice for you: USB 3.0 to DisplayPort 2560 x 1600 External Video Card Multi Monitor Adapter (USB32DPPRO)

    Jan 19 2015 Update

    Thanks to site visitors comments, I have removed the Linux references, see details of serious Linux limitations here.